Vocal : Sankaran Namboodiri
Violin : Mathur Srinidhi
Mrudangam : M T Rajakesari
Vocal : Kottakkal Madhu & Kalamandalam Babu Namboodiri
Chenda : Kalamandalam Krishnadas
Maddalam : Kalamandalam Raj Narayanan
Edakka : Kalamandalam Aneesh
Organised by : IPCA ( International Center for Performing Arts) , Yelahanka, Bangalore
( for identifying, those in italics are kathakalipadam)
01. vAtApi gaNapatim – hamsadhwani – Dikshitar ( O,S )
harihara vidhinuta – hamsadhwani – Thodayam
02. SLOkam ( pItAmbaram karavirAjitam) – Sri ( by both Madhu & Sankaran Namboodiri)
endarO mahAnubhAvulu – Sri – Thyagaraja
ajitA harE jaya – Sri – Kuchelavruttam ( started at vijaya sArathE)
03. pantuvarALi Alapana by Sankaran Namboodiri
Siva Siva Siva yenarAdA – pantuvarALi – Thyagarja
SLOkam ( chintayam iti) – pantuvarALi ( by Madhu)
avaLEtoru kAmini – pantuvarALi – Nalacharitham 3rd Day
04. Arabhi Alapana by Madhu & Sankaran Namboodiri
shArada rajani varunnu tEril – Arabhi – Arjuna Vishadavruttam
pAhi parvata nandini – Arabhi – Swathi Thirunal ( S )
05. sAmaja vara gamana – hindOLam – Thyagaraja ( S )
entiha man mAnasE – hindOLam – Karnashapatham
06. yOchanA kamalA lOchanA – darbAr – Thyagaraja ( S )
pUmAtinotha chArutanO – darbAr – Nalacharitam 1st Day
07. AbhEri alapana by Sankaran Namboodiri & Madhu
anganE njAn angu pOvatenganE – AbhEri – Nalacharitam 2nd Day
nagumOmu – AbhEri – Thyagaraja ( S )
tani Avartanam ( mrudangam , maddaLam, eDakka & chenDa)
08. bhAgyAda lakshmi bAramma – madhyamAvati – Purandara Dasa
padma vallabha pAlaya bhagavan – madhyamAvati – ?
The influence of carnatic music on the Kathakali padam ( a big and not so good influence these days) and vice versa ( especially on the Kerala based musicians) are not new to those who follow both the streams of classical music. Many Kerala based carnatic musicians are heavily influenced by the ‘sopanam’ style of Kathakali padams (few of them include these padams in their repertoire). Some of the aspects right stress and pronunciation, the appropriate ‘pada chedam’, the emotive content over structural brilliance, the ‘open throated’ singing style, the steady facial and physical control they exhibit even at the higher octaves etc are adaptable to carnatic singers. We see some of these as Keerthi once pointed out in the singing of MDR, KVN and few other Kerala born musicians. Similarly, Kathakali music has a long lasting connect to carnatic music. Some of the extinct ragas continue to thrive in Kathakali music such as kAnakurinji , sAmanthamalahari and pADi ( very distinct from the carnatic pADi).
Kathakalipada cutcheri as a form has evolved over the last two decades. Kalamandalam Sankaran Embranthiri, Venmany Hardas, Hyderali trio supposed to have given this a fresh life and made this into mainstream. There are more takers for this form now, with the new release of financial freedom experienced generally in this part of the world. The concept of jugalbandi is thus a natural progression. Inspired by each other, both the musical fraternity are now joining together experimenting with this system. The kathakali pada cutcheri itself is in the nascent state, and hence a jugalbandi is still in its premature stage. There are a few working-together and presenting a joint concert that is already performed in Kerala, but this must be for the first time, that such an event is being arranged in Bangalore.
One need to appreciate the organisers for bring this into Bangalore, and the artists themselves. The event in totality was very good and had no on stage confusion. The plan was clearly established ( on paper which both participant was constantly referring to) and executed until time as a villain played spoil sport. Both Sankaran Namboodiri and the Madhu-Babu pair, sang their part well. The handing over, the interchanges while singing the same part ( alapana, shlokam and the final madhyamavati piece) were beautifully handled. The selection too was decent ( they might have had a few more in stock, but had to cut short) with popular numbers from carnatic as well as Kathakali music.
On the side of improvement, one would like to see a more balancing of the singing. Sankaran Namboodiri, on his part was singing kalpana swaram for every kriti ( there is no equivalent in kathakali) and was indeed taken a larger pie of the proceeding with more agitated gestures. Kathakali singers on their part was calm and composed and had their share of elaboration through their version of ‘neraval’ like pada-sahitya sangatis.
Percussion artist supported their own group adequately. One could see the changing expression on the faces of the carnatic accompaniment. Rajakesari expression shown curiosity to start with changing into admiration and couldn’t resist himself by joining the ‘louder’ kathakali percussion team. Srinidhi, too seems to be in a similar state of mind. The percussion quadruple did play a shortish tani avartanam, with the mrudangam leading the fare and the rest playing out the ‘korvai’ part along with him.
Concert started with the hamsadhwani piece, with Sankaran Namboodiri singing vAtapi following the thODayam piece sung in hamsadhwani by Madhu & Babu in changing kalapramanam & tala. The slokam that followed was sung brilliantly by both Madhu and Sankaran Namboodiri before their respective Sriragam pieces. Sankaran Namboodiri chose to sing Endaro Mahanubhavulu, probably not the best choice for this, without the swara sahityam. Madhu and Babu sang the evergreen ‘ajitA harE’ from ‘kuchelavruttam’. Sankaran Namboodiri sang a short alapana for Pantuvarali, followed by Siva Siva Siva yenarAda with few rounds of swaras. I do notice that whenever artist from Kerala sing vAtApi or Siva Siva, there seems to be a strong influence of Chembai. Sankaran Namboodiri did a Chembai-ish swara play ( only one avartanam though) during his kalpana swaram.
Madhu and Sankaran Namboodiri shared the Arabhi alapana. Sarada rajani from the new ‘arjuna vishAda vruttam’ was sung by the kathakali duo with some brilliant neravalish sangathis with different naDai patterns at a few lines. The line ‘kaLa kaLaravamoDu kUDaNayunnu’ , especially, was brilliant. Sankaran Namboodiri on his turn sang pAvi Parvata nandini, a Swathi Thirunal navarathri kriti with yet another round of kalpana swaram. Hindolam was to follow, with Samaja vara gamana and very moving contemplative padam of Karna in karnashapatham’ ‘entiha man mAnasE’.
The organisers, by now were a worried lot as they had to close the concert by 9:00 pm, probably due to the rental agreement with the hall ( I am thinking aloud, and I might be wrong). There was chits, hand signals, kathakali mudras among others to convey this message to the artists on stage. A visibly disappointed Madhu was prompting Sankaran Namboodiri and the rest of the parts, including the main had been truncated to a large extent. They sang a fast ( Sankaran Namboodiri announced that he is going to sing a fast piece, and we smiled at ourselves as he was doing just that through out the evening) darbar before the announced main came in.
Madhu started the alapana taken over by Snakaran Namboodiri and concluded with some fabulous low octave singing by Madhu. He sang the ‘kATTALa’ padam to Damayanti from Nalacharitam 2nd Day ( I am not sure if this was usually sung in Abheri, my memory says the masters used to sing in madhyamavati) and Sankaran Namboodiri sang nagumomu with few rounds of kalpana swaras. A short tani avartanam followed lead by Rajakesari. They concluded with madhyamavati, altering between bhagyada lakshmi ( by Sankaran Namboodiri) and padma vallabha pAlaya ( by Madhu & Babu).
While the effort was laudable and the attempt was indeed very good, One can do a bit more preparatory work to make it more effective. One, they did not anticipate the approximate time on each piece, which seems to have caused the time pressure . Second, selection of the kritis should ideally be of the same kalapramanam. Endaro Mahanubhavulu probably not the right choice as against a nAmakusuma. Third, the shruthi’s seems to be a bit out of sync as I observed Madhu is singing at a higher pitch than he is used to. Fourth, they should balance it out among themselves, as one could see Sankaran Namboodiri trying to sing alapana and swaras for every kriti somewhat tilting the whole show.
Irrespective of these small observations, I enjoyed ( as the new word among nettizens) the evening. It was a commendable task and to their credit both Sankaran Namboodiri ( barring some of his agitating body gestures) and the Kathakali Duo ( Babu, especially was outstanding ) did a great job. Kudos to the organisers.